Once On This Island The Musical on Granville Island

“The Godsquad” L-R: Yoo Ra Kang, Ricardo Pequenino, Alexandra Quispe, Sari Rosofsky
Photo: Tina Clelland

From Broadway to Granville Island, Once On This Island is now playing at Red Gate Review Stage.  The award winning musical, currently in a revival on Broadway, is making its Vancouver debut with Fabulist Theatre.

With book and lyrics by Lynn Ahrens and, music by Stephen Flaherty, Once On This Island is based on Rosa Guy’s 1985 novel My Love, My Love: or, The Peasant Girl.  Based in the French Antilles, the story is a tropical take on The Little Mermaid with a touch of Romeo and Juliet added to the tale.

Once On This Island: Michael Gnansounou and Brianna Clark
Photo: Tina Clellan

Once On This Island tells the story orphan peasant girl Ti Mourne, one of the villagers who worship the island’s four gods; earth, water, love & death. The gods are looked upon for guidance while they control life, love and death.  On the other side of the island the wealthy French grands hommes look down upon the peasants but Ti Mourne finds love and plans to unite the island with her love of Daniel Beauxhomme, the son of a grands homme who crashes his car near Ti Mourne’s village during a rainstorm.

A lively score and a mix of energetic and soulful island ballads fill the musical with a tropical feeling.  In this ambitious Fabulist Theatre production, directed by Damon Bradley Jang, has cast Brianna Clark as Ti Mourne.  The high school student is a standout amongst the large cast, possessing a charismatic, lovely voice and lights up the stage with her smile. In his stage debut, Michael Gnansounou makes a charming leading man as Daniel Beauxhomme.

The limitations of the smaller review stage created congestion onstage with the sets and large cast taking up precious space, resulting in ensemble members bumping into each other during the dance numbers and some rather clumsy looking scenery changes.  The size of the theatre also plays a hand in some of the other technical issues, the band sounds amazing but overwhelms the vocals a number of times, making the story hard to follow.  A few actors’ microphones slipped out of place as well making them only audible for those nearby.  In spite of those technical difficulties, which will surely be worked out over the run of the show, Fabulist Theatre presents an uplifting, sunny look at culture clashes, diversity, love and death.

Fabulist Theatre’s Once On This Island plays at the Red Gate Review Stage April 12, 13 & 14, 2018.  Tickets are available on brownpapertickets.com.

Fabulist Theatre brings Once On This Island to Vancouver

Fabulist Theatre, a local company known for diverse casting of its shows, is bringing Once On This Island to Vancouver this Spring.  This is the first Vancouver production of Once On This Island, a revival is currently playing on Broadway at Circle In The Square Theatre.

“The Godsquad” L-R: Yoo Ra Kang, Ricardo Pequenino, Alexandra Quispe, Sari Rosofsky
Photo: Tina Clelland

Based on the 1985 novel “My Love, My Love; or, The Peasant Girl” by Rosa Guy, Once On This Island is a one-act musical, set in the French Antilles.  With elements of Romeo & Juliet and a magical touch of The Little Mermaid, the musical tells the story of Ti Moune, an orphaned local girl, who, with a little help of the Island’s local Gods, uses the power of love to bring together the island’s different classes.

In casting this production, director Damon Bradley Jang drew from Vancouver’s diverse talent pool to find his actors. Jang says “we wanted to cast based on the culturally diverse community of performers who make up Greater Vancouver and might otherwise be underrepresented in the city. We fully acknowledge that the story is a largely set in Haiti but we wanted to use the story as a platform to address the more universal themes of love, death, and social prejudice. In the agreement, the writers have stipulated that the show can be done with a multi ethnic cast as long as these themes are presented.

Michael Gnansounou and Brianna Clark
Photo: Tina Clellan

Traditionally, the show focuses heavily on the division of class indicated by paleness of skin.  The native islander ‘peasants’ were  darker skinned and the French “Grand hommes” were lighter skinned.  However, in our version, our Ti Moune (Brianna Clark) is ‘pale skin’ in comparison to our Daniel (Michael Gnansounou) who is ‘darker skin’ which is a bit of a nontraditional casting choice.”

Fabulist Theatre presents Once On This Island at the Redgate Revue Stage on Granville Island,  from April 6th to 14th, 2018.  Tickets are available now online at brownpapertickets.com

Picks of the Week – February 14, 2018

Happy Valentine’s lovebirds! This week Valentine’s Day and Lunar New Year Celebrations offer plenty to get you out of the house, the picks of the week will help to sort out what’s on.

Chocolate: Perfect for your after dinner chocolate craving, the Hot Chocolate Festival wraps up tonight.

Romance:  Romance week at Vancouver TheatreSports League wraps up tonight but the laughter never ends at the Improv Centre.

Pucks: The Vancouver Canucks take to the ice twice this week; tonight vs Florida then again on Saturday against Boston.

Jabberwocky
photo: Jason Strang

Cultures:  The Cultch York Theatre has Jabberwocky, a dark puppet work inspired by Lewis Carroll, while at the Vancity Culture Lab features No Foreigners a multimedia presentation on race and home, both shows running until February 17th

Rock: Thursday night Cincinnati based rock act Walk the Moon take to the stage at the Vogue Theatre

Elle & Warner
photo: Anita Alberto Photography

Musical:  Learn to bend and snap as Align Entertainment brings the award winning, bubbly Legally Blonde the Musical to the stage at Michael J Fox Theatre, until February 17th

Pop: Friday night, see what the buzz is about when English songstress Dua Lipa takes to the Vogue Theatre stage.

Exhibition: The Vancouver Art Gallery celebrates the opening of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg with a birthday bash, preview, dinner and party, the day before the opening of the Japanese artist’s first Canadian retrospective.

Next: West Moon Theatre has dual casts tackling the Pulitzer prize winning musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 from tonight until February 17th

Lunar: Celebrate the Lunar New Year with Year of the Dog Lunar Fest at Oakridge Centre and the Vancouver Art Gallery plaza through the new year.

Dragon:  At Fly Over Canada it’s a Lunar New Year double-bill of Flight of the Dragon, along with the regular Fly Over Canada experience, only until February 18th.

Moon: The Canadian Classic play, Salt-Water Moon, comes to the Gateway Theatre from February 15 – 24

Theatre: The Arts Club has the backstage antics of Jitters on at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 25 and the Tony award winning Fun Home at Granville Island Stage running until March 10

Jazz: Sunday night, the Chan Centre welcomes South African Jazz legends The Jazz Epistles: Abdullah Ibrahim with guest Terence Blanchard 

 

 

Next To Normal tackles mental illness

West Moon Theatre is presenting the award-winning rock musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 Theatre until February 17th.

In a unique turn, this production is double cast with two separate casts taking on the challenging musical’s heavy content and numbers.  The double cast allows for two interpretations of the characters and brings a different dynamic to the alternate performances.  The performance I had the privilege of seeing was the opening night for Cast A.  Director Chris Lam has noted that the expanded cast promotes diverse casting and representation, as the younger cast of many recent graduates have the opportunity to work alongside experienced professionals.

Next To Normal looks at a family with a mother with Bipolar Disorder and the fall out that her mental illness has on the rest of her family.  Diana (played in Cast A by Marie West) is consumed by her illness and with the support of husband Dan, (Mark Wolf) tries various treatments to find a ‘normal’ life.  Daughter Natalie (Katrina Teitz) overachieves in hopes of attaining her mother and father’s recognition but Diana’s illness, and her brother Gabe, who seemingly can do no wrong, always seems to take their attention from her.  As Diana and the family battle the ups and down of her illness the audience can’t help but have a sense of anxiety too in the unknown that lays ahead for them.

A musical as well known as Next To Normal and the award-winning performances of the original Broadway casts, puts a lot of pressure on the cast to make their own mark on the characters.  Chris Lam’s direction strips the play to its bare bones, focusing on the characters and exposing their flaws and fears.  In the intimate space of Studio 16, and with the very stripped down staging, the audience is so close to the action it feels like they’re sitting in the kitchen with the family.

The small orchestra is also onstage with the players, at first a worry that the music would overtake the acting but the instrument volume was just right.  While there was some audio technical issues during the second act, one speaker wasn’t working well, making the audio slightly difficult to hear at times, the cast put their hearts into their vocals. Marie West tears into the songs, tackling the Tony Award winning role with all her might but at times her vocals were difficult to distinguish on the polyphonic numbers.  Mark Wolf’s voice stood out with the perfect level to fill, but not overpower, the small room. Wolf and Blake Sartin (playing Henry, Natalie’s boyfriend) harmonize perfectly in their answer to each other on “A Promise’.  Katrina Teitz was a bit pitchy but her characterization of the put-upon Natalie showed her potential for the future.  Having seen Daren Dyhengco, who like Teitz is a grad of Capilano U Theatre program, only in the dramedy The Day Before Christmas, I wasn’t sure how he would carry the heavier message and cornerstone songs of Next To Normal but he too showed great lead actor potential.

West Moon Theatre’s Next To Normal runs at Studio 16, 1555 W 7th Ave, until February 17, 2018.
Tickets are available online at nexttonormalvan.brownpapertickets.com

 

Picks of the Week – February 7, 2018

These picks of the week find us moving into our first long weekend of 2018 and the Valentine and Lunar New Year season.

Taste: Vancouver Foodster’s Tasting Plates explores Mount Pleasant along Main Street, tonight February 7th

Musical:  Learn to bend and snap as Align Entertainment brings the award winning, bubbly Legally Blonde the Musical to the stage at Michael J Fox Theatre, until February 17th

Next: West Moon Theatre has dual casts tackling the Pulitzer prize winning musical Next To Normal at Studio 16 from tonight until February 17th

Lunar: Oakridge Centre kicks off the Lunar New Year with Year of the Dog Lunar Fest celebrations through the new year.

SHIT
photo: Emily Cooper

Profane: The Firehall Arts Centre is presenting the Canadian premiere of Australian playwright Patricia Cornelius’ SHIT a graphic look at the lives of three incarcerated women until February 10th.

Theatre: The Arts Club fill their stages with Topdog/Underdog playing at the Goldcorp Stage at the BMO Theatre Centre until February 11th,  Jitters on at the Stanley Industrial Alliance Stage until February 25 and starting tomorrow the Tony award winning Fun Home begins at Granville Island Stage running until March 10

Chocolate: Sip your way around the city with the warmth of the Hot Chocolate Festival on until February 14th

Jabberwocky
photo: Jason Strang

Cultures:  The Cultch York Theatre has Jabberwocky, a dark puppet work inspired by Lewis Carroll, while at the Vancity Culture Lab features No Foreigners a multimedia presentation on race and home, both shows running until February 17th

Broadway: The Queen Elizabeth Theatre will be a sing-along this week as Broadway Across Canada brings Motown: The Musical to the stage until Sunday.

Romance: Spread the laughter and love at Vancouver TheatreSports League as they celebrate Romance Week, with romantically themed improv shows until February 14th

Dragon: In celebration of the Lunar New Year, Fly Over Canada once again presents a double-bill of Flight of the Dragon, along with the regular Fly Over Canada experience, for a limited time, only until February 18th.

Exhibition: On Friday, the Vancouver Art Gallery celebrates the opening of Takashi Murakami: The Octopus Eats Its Own Leg with a birthday bash, preview, dinner and party, the day before the opening of the Japanese artist’s first Canadian retrospective.

 

 

A Little Night Music lights the Gateway Theatre season

Cast Photo: Emily Cooper

Gateway Theatre’s 2017 / 2018 season got underway this week with a lavish performance of Stephen Sondheim’s classic A Little Night Music.

A co-presentation with Patrick Street Productions, and directed by Peter Jorgensen, the Tony award winning musical is set in Sweden at the turn of the last century.  A tale of romance and class structure,  as characters deal with forbidden lust, infidelity, long-lost loves,  jealousy and reminisce about past liaisons. Through the characters’ trials and tribulations of love Jorgensen lets the comedy of the situations shine through.  The director took inspiration from Ingmar Bergman, the director of the source film of the musical, Smiles of  Summer Night, finding comedy in tragedy.  Patrick Street Productions and Jogensen have added their modern touch to the show with hints of sexual fluidity in the maid Petra’s character.

Kimmel & Wright
photo: Emily Cooper

Led by the always dependable Warren Kimmel as Fredrick Egerman, and Katey Wright as Desiree Armfeldt, who both have the acting and musical talents to all eyes on them when they’re onstage.  The cast also included stand-out turns from Arinea Hermans and Caleb Di Pomponio as Fredrick’s virgin (2nd) bride and his angst-ridden son, Henrick. Nick Fontaine’s Count Carl-Magnus and Lindsay Warnock as his put-upon wife, Countess Charlotte provide scenery chewing comedy performances. Young Elizabeth Irving displays talent beyond her years as Desiree’s daughter, Fredricka.  The capable ensemble rounds out the cast, making the performance light and breezy, in spite of its 2.5 hour run time.  Coming towards the end of the show, the musical gets late energy boost from the famed Send In The Clowns.  Throughout the show, Sondheim’s music, and Hugh Wheeler’s book, share the storytelling duties effortlessly.  Alan Brodie’s simple set and lighting design help to highlight Jessica Bayntun’s lush, period costumes.

Set & Lighting Design by Alan Brodie, photo by Emily Cooper.jpg

Find your own reasons to love and laugh as A Little Night Music continues at Gateway Theatre until October 21st.

13: The Musical brings back teen spirit

L to R: Julian Lokash (Archie), Julia Mclean (Patrice), Graham Verchere (Evan), Jason Sakaki (Brett), Kyra Leroux (Kendra), Michelle Creber (Lucy)
Photo Credit: Anita Alberto

Bring On Tomorrow Co’s production of 13 : The Musical, now playing at Waterfront Theatre, brilliantly brings back all the feelings of adolescents.  We’ve all been haunted by the spirits of teen angst but thankfully it’s much more enjoyable watching the trials and tribulations when it’s happening to someone else.

The company, made completely of teenaged actors, bring to life Dan Elish’s story of Evan Goldman.  Ripped from the comfort of his New York City life and plunked into Appleton, Indiana just as he turns 13 years old.  With his Bar Mitzvah plans now thrown into array, Evan must balance the tricky teen worlds of popularity and friendship.

Graham Verchere brings Evan to the stage with a believable awkward innocence of a boy becoming a man, or at least trying to navigate his way to teenhood, with a little help from his friends.  Patrice, literally the girl next door, played beautifully by Julia Maclean, and Archie, Julian Lokash, plays the ‘boy with the terminal illness’ not to be laughed at but laughed with.  While every character has moments of light and dark the powerhouse performance of Michelle Creber as Lucy the main manipulator of the gang, is a girl everyone remembers from school as is Brett, played by Jason Sakaki, the quintessential jock.

Just like back in school, the girls have developed earlier than the boys.  Most of these female performers have rich powerful voices while the adolescent boys bring back those memories and blushes of the occasional cracks and squeaks when you least expect them, bringing even more reality to Jason Robert Brown’s songs.  Chris Adams direction and Nicol Spinola’s choreography work hand in hand to juggle the large ensemble as they recreate the energy of the Dan Quayle Junior High School student body. Christopher David Gauthier’s simple set design makes quick changes to reveal all the halls and rooms of the school.

While Bring On Tomorrow Co’s 13 : The Musical ends on October 8th, if you have the chance get out and see it.  Relive the comedy and tragedy of being 13,  there’s sure to be a character who reminds you of someone you went to school with, if not yourself.